LEONARDTOWN, MD – During their business meeting Tuesday, September 22, the  Commissioners of St. Mary’s County considered the 2021 Legislative Proposals. County Attorney David Weiskopf put forth 13 legislative proposals from Commissioners, the St. Mary’s County Department of Finance, Department of Emergency Services, the Department of Aging and Human Services in conjunction with the Human Relations Commission, the Sheriff, and the Alcohol Beverage Board of St. Mary’s County and a request for a Bond Bill from the Breton Bay Golf and County Club.

The full text for each proposal is available on the St. Mary’s County BoardDocs page. The 2021 Legislative Proposals are as follows:

1 – De-Couple METCOM and Commissioners of St. Mary’s County Debt. This request would amend Section 27-11 of Article 19 – Public Local Laws of St. Mary’s County so that the METCOM debt would be de-coupled from the Commissioners of St. Mary’s County debt. 

“The proposal to de-couple the Commissioners and METCOM debt is in response to a change that was made in the previous term before I took office. Very simply put, the county and METCOM are only allowed to borrow a certain amount of money based on the value of assets, and this is a good thing–it is a financial check on government to prevent poor financial planning so that we do not end up underwater in debt. We need to borrow money in order to do capital projects, such as taking care of roads and building necessary facilities as the county grows–it is important to note that we do not ever borrow money for our general operating budget with recurring costs like salaries. The feeling is that when the county’s debt limit and METCOM’s debt limit were coupled together, it was too restrictive and by separating them we can still maintain the financial check but allow more flexibility to operate,” said Commissioner Eric Colvin.

2 – Reduce the Amount of Debt METCOM Can Incur.  This request is to amend Section 113-6 of Article 19 – Public Local Laws of St. Mary’s County to reduce the amount of outstanding debt METCOM can incur.

3 – Public Facilities Bond, to request authority to issue $34.7 million in public facility bonds for the FY 2022 budget.

“The proposal for $34,700,000 of bond authority definitely requires more discussion. This is a natural part of our budget process to determine our capital projects for the upcoming year and at this point in the process I am not ready to say we need a certain amount of bond authority. Hopefully we will be able to follow the same course we took last year and hold off on this proposal until we have had the appropriate budget work sessions,” said Colvin.

4 – Building Excise Tax, to request authority under §20 of the Local Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to replace the Impact Fee with a Building Excise Tax in St. Mary’s County.

5 – Transfer Tax – Repeal Of Sunset Date, to repeal Chapter 138(F) of Article 19 – Public Local Laws of St. Mary’s County– to remove the October 1, 2024 termination date of the Real Property Transfer Tax.

6 – Public Accommodations Tax Rate Increase, to amend ?20-405 of the Local Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to pass enabling legislation permitting the increase in the St. Mary’s County Public Accommodations Tax rate from five (5) percent to seven (7) percent.        

“Several of the proposals are especially interesting to me. First, I submitted a proposal to repeal the St. Mary’s County Open Meetings Act and solely follow the State Open Meetings Act. It is definitely a point of pride that St. Mary’s County was the first county to have an Open Meetings Act, but these laws have evolved over the years that every other county in the state follows the state’s Open Meetings Act–we are the only county that has its own version and that makes things difficult when new situations arise (such as a global pandemic) and we need to get a ruling from the Attorney General on how to proceed, said Commissioner Colvin.

” Another proposal that I am in strong support of is allowing golf carts on Old Horse Landing Road. There is a certain amount of irony and confusion on my part as to why we need to ask the General Assembly for permission for this–why would delegates from Baltimore or the Eastern Shore care if we allow golf carts to drive on a country back road, but that’s the way our Commissioner form of government works. A third very interesting proposal is to increase the amount of our accommodations tax from 5% to 7%. It is important to note that this, like several other proposals, is only asking for the ability to change the tax, it does not automatically change the tax. In my mind, visitors to the county drive on our roads, make use of our police, rescue, and other services, and visit our parks, so accommodations taxes are fair and I do not believe that it would have any impact on people choosing to stay in one of our hotels,” he finished.

7 – St. Mary’s County Open Meetings Act – to repeal the St. Mary’s County Open Meetings Act located in ?9-501 through ?9-516 of the Local Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland and to require that St. Mary’s County follow the State Open Meetings Act located in §3-101- §3-501 of the General Provisions Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.       

8 – Body Worn Cameras – Animal Control Officers, to amend ?10-402 of the Judicial Proceedings Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to allow St. Mary’s County Animal Control Officer to wear body worn cameras to record their encounters and activities.

9 – Human Relations Commission Language Update, to amend §29-106(b)(2) of the Local Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to include sexual orientation and gender identity within the protected classes of people under the Powers and Duties of the St. Mary’s County Human Relations Commission.

10 – Create Bingo Licensing Permit Review Committee, to amend the local gaming provisions for St. Mary’s County located in §13- 2101, §13-2103, §13-2105, §13-2106,§13-2107 and §13-2115 of the Criminal Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland to create a Bingo Licensing Permit Review Committee or administrative function.

11 – Allow Golf Carts on Old Horse Landing Road, to amend §20-104 of the Transportation Article to exempt Golf Carts from Motor Vehicle registration Requirements on Old Horse Landing Road in Mechanicsville.          

12 – Bond Bill Request- Breton Bay Pond/Dam Repair and Reconstruction, to support the community request for a Bond Bill for $750,000 to repair/reconstruct the water management pond/dam in Breton Bay.

13 – On-Site Consumption Permit for Class 1 Distillery License, to amend §28 of the Alcoholic Beverages Article to add section 404 to establish an on-site consumption permit for Class 1 Distillery License.

The Commissioners will vote on the proposals at their September 29, 2020, meeting in preparation for their joint meeting with the St. Mary’s Delegation on October 6th.

Commissioner decisions and related public documents are available on the county government website in BoardDocs. St. Mary’s County Commissioner Meetings may be viewed live Tuesday mornings on SMCG Channel 95 or as a replay Friday nights at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are also available for on-demand viewing on the St. Mary’s County Government YouTube Channel.

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